Medical warehouse wins pitch competition

Cleveland-based BridgePort Group, a supply chain consultant, plans a 250,000-square-foot, temperature-controlled warehouse for the medical and pharmaceutical industries along Cleveland’s Opportunity Corridor Boulevard at East 93rd Street. Its vision won it first prize in the inaugural Cleveland Equitable Development Initiative competition (BridgePort). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

Entrepreneurs of color win predevelopment grants

An ambitious and innovative plan to construct a high-tech cold storage facility for medical and pharmaceutical uses along the Opportunity Corridor Boulevard has secured the top prize in the first Cleveland Equitable Development Initiative (CLE-EDI) real estate developer pitch competition. The competition was spearheaded by Cleveland Development Advisors and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress.

CLE-EDI, launched last year, aims to level the playing field for historically excluded developers of color and uplift communities. The program paired the 15 selected cohort members with experienced developer mentors to assist in the progression and execution of their projects.

In a Shark Tank-style competition, Andre Bryan and the iSPACE Project earned first phase and will be awarded a $50,000 predevelopment grant. The second- and third-place winners will receive $30,000 and $20,000 respectively, for transformational housing projects in Cleveland’s St. Clair Superior and Slavic Village neighborhoods. Each of the remaining 12 participants will receive a $1,500 grant.

“This program was launched to address the imbalance in the real estate industry in Greater Cleveland,” President and CEO of Cleveland Development Advisors Yvette Ittu said in a written statement. “I am profoundly moved by the results. The program exceeded all of our expectations.”

“What started as a vision I believe has become a movement, driven by this outstanding cohort and their mentors inspiring remarkable innovation and dedication,” Ittu added. “We expanded our prize program to ensure every cohort member received a well-deserved award in addition to all of the great benefits that came with the CLE-EDI.”

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb said of the program that real estate “is not an easy industry to break into and this is a long overdue investment to help more minorities successfully navigate the industry from project conception to completion.”

A conceptual massing of the BridgePort Group’s iSPACE warehouse on the Opportunity Corridor Boulevard, looking northward at East 93rd Street (BridgePort).

The program participants learned the winners today at the Cleveland Develops Together Closing Reception and Networking Affair held at The Cleveland Foundation’s headquarters on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland’s Midtown neighborhood.

BridgePort Group’s $50 million-plus iSPACE temperature-controlled warehouse project won first place with its proposal to bring advanced technology to Northeast Ohio, improving local healthcare access, enhancing public health outcomes and spurring economic growth.

Led by Managing Partner Andre Bryan, the state-of-the art 250,000 square foot warehouse facility is proposed along and north of Cleveland’s Opportunity Corridor, just east of East 93rd Street in Fairfax. The iSPACE facility will have five distinct temperature zones, research labs and clean rooms, office spaces and a supply chain logistics technology training center.

Temperature-controlled storage facilities are equipped with refrigeration systems that can maintain precise temperature ranges, often from just above freezing (0°C or 32°F) to well below freezing (-18°C or 0°F and lower). Temperature-controlled storage facilities are used for a variety of purposes, including storing pharmaceuticals, vaccines, biologics and other temperature-sensitive products.

Collaborating with local health departments and non-profit organizations, the facility could ensure a steady supply of chronic illness medications and other medical supplies that require storage at ultra-cold to cryogenic temperatures.

Target tenants for the warehouse include Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University, Battelle, Johnson + Johnson, Athersys, Cardinal Health, Abeona Therapeutics, Promedica, MetroHealth, The Ohio State University and other leading healthcare organizations.

Local entrepreneurs competed for a total of $118,000 in prizes in the the first Cleveland Equitable Development Initiative (CLE-EDI) real estate developer pitch competition (CDA).

According to Bryan, the project will leverage Cleveland’s health care prowess to create more biotech/healthcare jobs in the city. Developers say the project will create more than 120 living-wage career jobs in the first 24 months. It will also include a health-tech innovation center for emerging businesses.

BridgePort Group was established a decade ago and provides innovative solutions for global supply chain, logistics technology, warehousing and distribution services. Among other awards, the firm has been recognized as the Small Business of the Year by the Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council, and awarded No. 7 on the FORTUNE 100 list of Fastest Growing Inner-City Businesses.

Second place went to Jimi Oluwabiyi and Lael Developers Inc. for its proposal to create affordable townhomes in the Slavic Village neighborhood to breathe new life into the historic neighborhood.

Following the 2007 foreclosure crisis, Slavic Village was one of the hardest hit communities in the entire country, resulting in a high number of abandoned and dilapidated properties that led to mass demolitions and a lot of vacant land.

Similarly, the high degree of disinvestment in the neighborhood further exacerbated the recovery that other Cleveland neighborhoods experienced. Most of the houses, many of which are single-family detached dwellings constructed before World War Two, need significant repairs.

Lael Development’s principal Oluwabiyi is proposing to lead the revitalization efforts from the “heart” of the village by increasing home ownership, improving quality of life for residents, bolstering economic activities, improving the overall aesthetic appeal of the neighborhood, and creating a vibrant, sustainable community for its residents, while preserving its rich culture.

Lael Development seeks to fill vacant land in Cleveland’s Slavic Village by constructing and marketing 42 affordable, for-sale townhomes in the neighborhood (AECOM).

This $13 million-plus project will include 42 new affordably priced modern residential townhomes in Slavic Village. The average sale price of the new units is set at $199,000, well below market trends for townhomes in the Cleveland area over the past year.

Oluwabiyi began his real estate development career in 2002. His residential work has expanded to multi-family development and he has also worked on property management, contractor management risk assessments, financial analysis and stakeholder management. His civic work has included being appointed to the New African Immigrants Commission of Ohio.

Third place was received by Jermaine Brooks and WRJ Developers’ ArkiTainer infill housing project in the St. Clair Superior Neighborhood will construct shipping container homes.

Brooks is a realtor and managing member of WRJ Developers LLC, a minority developer in Cleveland that includes Richard Singleton and Willie Levy. For its ArkiTainer project, WRJ will build a 10 duplex housing complex built from shipping containers on East 72nd Street in Cleveland, with additional plans in the pipeline.

Located in an Opportunity Zone, the project is less than 0.6 miles from Gordon Park and Lake Erie. The WRJ project reinforces housing infrastructure and the attraction of supportive amenities and essential services such as a grocer.

The project is included in the Cleveland City Planning Commission Development Plan for St. Clair Superior Lakefront East and aligned with the St. Clair Superior Strategic Plan completed in 2021, particularly regarding its focus on strengthening housing stock.

WRJ Developers plans to build ArkiTainer, 10 duplex homes built from shipping containers on East 72nd Street in Cleveland to provide quality, affordable homes (WRJ).

WRJ Developers started with one thought in mind: “who better to improve our communities than those that are born and raised in the community.” As Cleveland natives, they organized themselves into a real estate development company with a primary focus to buy, sell, and develop property and land.

They also raise, invest and manage funds needed to fuel their primary objective and lastly to provide end-to-end services to assist with property and construction management over the course of respective projects. WRJ Developers has more than 25 years of residential and commercial experience.

“I can’t say enough about the 15 developers who were part of the inaugural cohort of program members,” said William Willis, Cleveland Development Advisor’s senior director of development services who leads CLE-EDI. “They have shown both a commitment to this city and to each other.”

The entrepreneurs possess a range of business experience, but the intensive real estate development training and mentorship this program provides will significantly enhance their chances of success. By cultivating these motivated individuals, the program fosters greater diversity and inclusion in Cleveland’s real estate community and will elevate their capabilities in development.

Here is a full list of the 2023-2024 cohort class and the other members of the CLE-EDI program winning $1,500 grants. A new cohort class will start this fall and run through Spring 2025, with applications being open July 1-29.


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